Rhoades Less Traveled:

Face-lift for Fashion Island

November 19, 2009|By Brady Rhoades

I’ve scored a trifecta by getting sick at all three amusement parks within driving distance in Southern California: Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm.

Trust me, it wasn’t pretty.

Rides that go round and round — the spinning cups come to mind — are especially dangerous given my motion sickness.

So it follows that my view on the carousel controversy might be tainted.

In case you haven’t heard of, or read about, the controversy, Fashion Island is planning on removing the 6-year-old carousel as part of a $100-million makeover, and some patrons of the shopping center are none too happy.


Kerre James, a mother of two, has collected more than 700 signatures on a petition to save the horses. Irvine Co. Spokesman John Christenson told me 40 people have called him lobbying for the carousel. I’ve received dozens of calls myself.

In pretty much all cases, those up in arms over the Irvine Co.’s plan say the carousel helps create a kid-friendly atmosphere. More and more, the refrain goes, Newport Beach is losing that kid-friendly feel. For instance, take a look at the Fun Zone — or a trimmed version of it — in Balboa.

City Editor Imran Vittachi and I recently visited Fashion Island and the carousel. It is, undoubtedly, a nice feature, though we were there in the early afternoon and a scarce few were riding it (perhaps nights, when folks are off work, is a better gauge of its popularity).

And we spoke with Irvine Co. representatives, who aren’t budging on this issue. They pointed out that, as part of the face-lift, a brand spanking new Nordstrom — as well as other retail stores — will be setting up shop at Fashion Island. Also, they’ve added a water wall to the atrium area and are planning to landscape grassy patches where parents can relax and kids can play.

It seems to me that those addled by the prospect of a carousel-less Fashion Island should consider the bigger picture.

Yes, the carousel is soon to be history, but by the time the face-lift is complete, the Irvine Co. will have vastly improved patrons’ shopping experience.

We would do well to consider that, in the middle of a recession, a developer has opted for aggressive financing of a major renovation. If $100 million doesn’t show a commitment to excellence, I don’t know what does.

Then again, I’m sullied by a checkered record when it comes to rides, though I realize that kids get a thrill going round and round, or up and down, even if just watching it makes me nauseous.

Editor BRADY RHOADES may be reached at (714) 966-4607 or at

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